Craig Williams will partner Criterion in the 2015 Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday and he believes that the star entire is in outstanding condition ahead of the Group 1 event.
Williams did not ride Criterion during the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival, but he steered the Sebring entire to victory in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 11 and partnered him when he finished third in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on April 26.
The talented hoop believes that Criterion has come on significantly since he rode him in the autumn and he is confident that the experienced international traveller is the right horse to deliver Australia a maiden win in the Hong Kong Cup.
“He has already been here twice and been very competitive, so it has shown that the flying in here and the routine of the quarantine here in Hong Kong doesn’t stop the horse,” Williams told Racing Ahead.
“The way that he is at the moment compared to how he was before I rode him in the QE2, he is a lot more relaxed, he is a lot more mature and he also has a lot more miles under his legs.
“His form is excellent, what he has done in the last 12 months is extraordinary.
“He was a picture at Moonee Valley and he is so alive and he is so energetic.
“The maturity, the travelling, the spacing of his races and the routine that David has him into has him thriving.”
While connections are thrilled with the physical condition of Criterion ahead of the Hong Kong Cup, they were left disappointed yesterday afternoon when the four-time Group 1 winner was allocated barrier 13.
Trainer David Hayes admits that luck in running will now be key to the chances of Criterion, but he believes that his star galloper is due for a change of luck in Hong Kong.
“We drew perfectly the last two times and had no luck, from out there we need luck and might get it for a change,” Hayes said.
He is in great condition but that doesn’t make it any easier.
“We will sit down and look at the race now, see how it is going to be run to decide what is the best thing to do with him.
“There should be pace, so I think we can get a nice trail, which is going to be Craig’s challenge from out there.”
Criterion is currently available at 2015 Hong Kong Cup odds of $6.50 with Ladbrokes and he is on the third line of betting behind Free Eagle ($4.40) and Designs On Rome ($5.50).